By KENDRA PEEK
11:24 AM EST, December 3, 2012
Baseball cards are often a gateway to friendship and a part of growing up for many children. Unfortunately, for those at Danville’s Sunrise Children’s Services, a “normal” childhood isn’t in the works.
Dale Suttles, senior advancement director of Sunrise, says that’s why it’s so important when a sense of normalcy can be returned to their lives. One group helping Sunrise to do this is Commons 4 Kids, started by Danville native and Lawrenceburg resident Jerry Milburn.
On Friday, Milburn and his wife Jackie visited Sunrise for the second time, on this occasion bringing 250,151 cards, which pushed Commons 4 Kids beyond its latest goal of donating 1 million cards.
For Milburn, reaching that goal so soon was a bit of a shock, as he originally guessed it would take him a decade to give away that many cards.
“I thought it would take 10 years. We’ve basically done it in a year,” he said.
Commons 4 Kids began giving away cards in October 2011, using many that Milburn personally owned, in an effort to decrease the amount of “common” cards he had laying around. These are the cards collectors obtain while seeking out the ones they need for their collection. Generally, commons aren’t worth a great deal, however, to a kid, Milburn believes it could mean a lot.
“The idea was to donate 80,000 and stop,” he said, but then the donations started arriving. Prior to this, the Milburns were frequently trying out different types of donations for kids, doing each one a short time and then moving on to the next idea. However, he explained, “this one seems to be sticking.”
“I didn’t realize it, but there’s a lot of people out there with a lot of cards that don’t know what to do with them,” Milburn said. The idea of giving them to children seems to resonate, because the donations just keep pouring in from around the country. They’ve even been given cards from Canada on more than one occasion.
“It’s funny, because a lot of their cards are actually in French,” he said, explaining that, otherwise, they looked like cards bought in the United States.
Sometimes, Milburn finds a card that has the potential to be quite valuable, considering most of these cards are worth about five cents. It is typically because the sender doesn’t realize the worth. When he finds one of those cards, Milburn contacts the person who sent the donation, offering it back with no problems. In many cases, they simply tell him to keep it.
“Some day, you’re going to get one that just blows your mind,” Suttles said, laughing.
There were a few of those valuable ones found when the team, consisting of Milburn, his wife, and their son Evan, sorted the cards that were given to Sunrise. Some of those were pulled out to be handed to Suttles personally, along with the more unusual cards (such as one for actress Bette Davis), and money that had been donated to give to the home. Milburn encouraged Suttles to sell those highly valued cards.
“I know kids can’t eat cards,” Milburn said. “Do whatever you can to help the home.”
Any of the other valuable cards in the donation were simply left mingled in, their worth to be discovered by those lucky enough to get those cards.
Among the most valuable were the two cards that counted as the 999,999 and the 1-millionth cards Commons 4 Kids had given away. Both held not only monetary value, but also sentimental value for Milburn.
Growing up, the one card he sought after the most was the 1989 Upper Deck Ken Griffey, Jr. rookie card. However, to this day, he has never been able to pull one of those cards from a pack, except the one that his mother inserted into the pack before handing it to him.
It was damaged when he was younger, after it got accidentally dropped in its case and bent.
In spite of its wear, Milburn has kept that card, which is framed and hanging on his wall at home.
That card is an example of why he invests so much time and effort into Commons 4 Kids, which is simply his way of giving children something they can hold dear. To Milburn, these cards act as something that is symbolic of childhood itself.
Since then, Milburn has had the opportunity to purchase four more of those cards, two of which he donated to Sunrise. One of the two is graded, meaning the value of the card could be in the triple digits.
Such donations mean a great deal to Sunrise, especially to the children it strives to help, according to Suttles, who explained they are required to cover with 40 percent of their operating costs.
“This is for the betterment of these children who have faced atrocities we would never know,” he said.
Part of the major reason they gave to Sunrise, Milburn explained, was a personal.
Being originally from Danville, he said he had friends who lived at the home and attended the Danville schools with him when he was younger. That impressed upon him the need to return and help the children living there.
Suttles extended future invitations to Milburn, adding that maybe they could get a baseball game together with the kids. He stressed how much this donation, that of baseball and other cards, would mean to the children, who will receive them at a later date.
“You saw how excited they were,” he said to Milburn. “It brings a bit of normalcy to their lives.”
Suttles explained that there was also a greater lesson to be learned in all of this. They had paused classes, allowing the older youth to come outside, to help unload the multitude of boxes from the back of Milburn’s van.
“To have kids see generosity like that ... it benefits them to see that there are people out there that do good things,” Suttles said. “Someone’s given us a boatload of cards and they don’t have to. That shows them that people are philathropic and generous ... That’s a good lesson.”
Milburn agreed, and explained that the lesson is one he and his wife have strived to teach their son, Evan, about the project. While Evan has no interest in owning cards himself, Milburn said he likes to help sort from time to time.
Currently, Milburn is working on a book, explaining all about Commons 4 Kids, which he plans to sell on his website, www.commons4kids.org, as an effort to raise more money to purchase cards to donate.
While he still maintains and continues growing his own card collection, Milburn stresses that every card donated to Commons 4 Kids goes back out to the charities.
The next goal for Commons 4 Kids is to get cards from all 50 states and to donate cards in all 50 states.
SO YOU KNOW
Discover the many of the places Commons 4 Kids visits and the donations it receives at www.commons4kids.org, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/commons4kids.
For more information on Sunrise Children’s Services, visit www.sunrise.org or contact the Danville campus, one of many around the country, at (859) 936-3541.
Copyright © 2013, AM News